Monday, December 16, 2013

Trying Some New Recipes for Cookies

Russian Tea Cakes, aka Snowballs
I have finally begun my baking for this season. I started by sitting down and creating three new cookie recipes, on paper, plus one fudge recipe. I have made the three new cookie doughs, and today I baked the first of those. The ones I baked are called Chocolate Hazelnut Pepperballs, and I topped them with Caramelized White Chocolate Ganache. That last did not quite turn out as I hoped, but it sure tastes good. I also baked one of the new recipes from last year; Pistachio Tea Cookies, using Matcha Green Tea Powder as an ingredient. Both these cookies are modeled on the shortbread type cookies my family always called Russian Tea Cakes. These are also called Snowballs and other things, but I love calling them Russian Tea Cakes, and so they remain.

Unsalted, shelled pistachios,
alongside the ground nut meal
For the Pistachio Tea Cookies, I used unsalted, shelled pistachios. I found them at either, or at Unsalted pistachios make these cookies far more palatable, so look for them if you try this recipe. I have a Vita Mix blender and used the container with the blade for grinding dry ingredients, placed the pistachios in and on a fairly low speed, chopped the nuts. Precaution: do not keep the Vita Mix on too long, or it will heat the nuts and you will end up with pistachio butter instead of nicely ground pistachios. I poured them into an old Tupperware colander and used a spoon to help the finer bits pass through into a bowl to measure. This keeps any bits that stayed a little too large out of the mixture. I ate the remaining larger bits for a snack ;-)

Pistachio Tea Cookies

Pistachio Tea Cookies

Makes about 7½ dozen cookies (with 1¼" diameter cookie scoop)

2 cups unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup confectioners' sugar
½ teaspoon pistachio flavoring
½ teaspoon almond flavoring
½ teaspoon vanilla
¼ cup Matcha Green Tea Powder
4¼ cups all purpose flour
½ teaspoon salt
1½ cups finely ground unsalted pistachios
Extra confectioner's sugar for rolling and storing

Cream together the butter and confectioners' sugar with the flavorings. If pistachio flavoring is not available, use all almond or part almond and part vanilla extracts. Using a pastry cutter, cut in the flour, Green Tea Powder and salt. Add in the nuts and combine well. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Form the dough into one-inch balls. Place on an ungreased baking sheet and bake for 14 to 16 minutes, or until set but not too browned. Immediately roll in confectioners' sugar and allow to cool. Before storing, roll in confectioners' sugar a second time and store with plenty of the sugar around them.

NOTES: Making these cookies with a 1¼-inch diameter cookie scoop is a snap. Press the dough into the bowl of the scoop, release and they are perfectly domed-shape little tea cookies.

The new recipe for Chocolate Hazelnut Pepperballs turned out okay, but I believe since it has been so vary cold here, and with the heat running constantly, my flour and other ingredients might be drier than normal. I had to add in a couple tablespoons of water to try and get the dough to hold together enough to form the balls. As a precaution, I state here below to use 1/2 cup less flour in the mixture than what I used. This gives the option of adding in an extra 1/2 cup if it is needed for proper consistency.

Chocolate Hazelnut Pepperballs

Chocolate Hazelnut Pepperballs
with Caramelized White Chocolate Ganache
1 1/2 cups unsalted butter (2 sticks), room temperature
3/4 cup confectioners' sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour (+ 1/2 cup in reserve)
6 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground ancho chili powder (not the "chili powder" for making chili!)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup hazelnut meal (I used Bob's Red Mill brand)

Cream together the butter and confectioners' sugar. Add in the vanilla and mix to combine. Separately, sift or whisk together the dry ingredients, reserving the half cup of the flour aside in case it is needed later. Cut the dry ingredients into the creamed mixture with a pastry cutter or two knives, or even your fingers. It should be very crumbly, but be able to hold together when squeezed into a ball shape. Chill the dough before using.

When ready to bake, set the oven to 375 (or 350 if Convection). Form small balls, about 1-inch in diameter and set them about an inch or more apart on ungreased baking sheets. Bake the cookies for 13 to 15 minutes, or until set.

At this point, the cookies may be rolled in confectioners' sugar, or a mixture of confectioners' sugar and unsweetened cocoa powder.
Another couple of recipes for cookie dough are in the refrigerator, ready to work with when I have the time. One is called Gingerspice Cookies; the goal with this recipe being a nicely spiced cookie that is not a typical gingerbread cookie.  Another one is called Cardamom Almond Cookies. I have made something similar in the past, but this mixture is new. 

Gingerspice Cookies
Gingerspice Cookies

Gingerspice Cookies

Makes 11 - 12 dozen 2-inch cookies

2¼ cups all-purpose flour
1 cup light brown sugar
½ teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cassia cinnamon
½ teaspoon cloves

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 - 2 tablespoons water or milk, as needed

In a large bowl whisk together the dry ingredients. Cut in the butter as for pie dough, until crumbly. Whisk together the egg and the vanilla and add this to the crumbly mixture, tossing lightly with a fork to combine the wet and dry ingredients. If the mass will not come together, add in 1 tablespoon of the water or milk. Add up to 1 tablespoon more of the liquid if needed to form a dough.

Form the dough into two cylindrical shapes and roll in waxed paper; refrigerate at least 3 to 4 hours, or freeze up to a month in advance. If frozen, allow the dough to thaw in the refrigerator at least 24 hours before using.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees (325 on Convect Bake). Remove half the dough from the refrigerator and roll out on a lightly floured surface about 1/8 inch thick. Cut into shapes with a cookie cutter or just slice into squares or rectangles. Bake the cookies on an ungreased baking sheet for 10 to 12 minutes, or until set but not too browned. Remove from the baking sheet to a counter or rack to cool. Ice if desired.

Cardamom Almond Cookies
Cardamom Almond Cookies

Cardamom Almond Cookies

Makes approximately 8 dozen 2-inch wafers

2 cups all-purpose flour
¾ cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
1 teaspoon fresh lemon zest, finely grated
½ teaspoon salt
¾ cup almond meal

1½ sticks unsalted butter, softened (12 tablespoons)
2 eggs, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons water, milk or Amaretto liqueur

n a large bowl, whisk together the first 6 ingredients to combine. Cut in the butter as for pie dough, with a pastry cutter, fork, two knives or with fingertips to make a crumbly mixture. Combine the eggs and liquid of choice and add in, tossing lightly with a fork until the mixture begins to hold together. With hands, form the dough into a log and wrap in waxed paper. Chill the dough before proceeding.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees (325 on Convection). This recipe can easily be made using my Busy-Mom-Method. If you choose to roll the dough and cut out shapes, roll to about 1/8-inch thickness and cut. Re-roll the scraps and repeat. Bake the cookies on an ungreased cookie sheet for about 10 to 12 minutes, or until just lightly browned.

These cookies are flavorful enough to be enjoyed as is. If you choose they may be iced as desired, or made into sandwich cookies. 

Happy Holiday Baking to all, and to all a good night!


My passion is to teach people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, and help pass along my love and joy of food, both simple and exotic, plain or fancy. I continue my journey in ethnic and domestic cuisines, trying new things weekly. Join me at A Harmony of Flavors Website, on Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. I am also on a spiritual journey and hope you will join me at my new blog, An Eagle Flies.